Introducing the Diversity Section

| by Susan McIntosh Follow 10 Followers on Aug 14, 2017. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

Whilst InfoQ has long covered diversity we have decided to give the topic greater prominence on the site with a new section on diversity within the Culture and Methods area. We, the editors, are looking at different ways that companies and others are promoting diversity within organizations. We'll start this off with a couple of news items around organizations that are encouraging girls and young women to explore STEM skills.

The data is clear: diversity improves financial success. Women and minorities on boards and in the C-suite are positively correlated to financial success across industries. Diverse teams outperform their more uniform counterparts.

While the initial focus will be on gender diversity within IT, there will certainly be additional information about other population groups that are not well-represented in the industry - racial, ethnic, age, and neurodiversity affect our organizations as well. And, as recent news from Google shows, diversity of thought is also important (while neverltheless showing respect to others). We will not weigh in on the chain of events leading up to Mr. Damore being fired by Google in this article, as we can't pretend to understand all the information that he, his manager, and any HR representative may have used to come to that decision.  That said, the topic was discussed on our recent culture podcast with Jez Humble. 

How an organization addresses diversity is certainly an element of organizational culture. Susan McIntosh and Manny Segarra are currently writing an article about culture. They use a farming analogy to describe culture. And diversity is like some of the practices farmers have used for centuries. Companion planting matches multiple crops together, as they can support each other. In several Native American farming traditions, this is exemplified with "three sisters" planting: maize stalks provide a pole for beans to climb, beans enrich the soil with nitrogen, and the leaves of the squash plants provide protection from weed growth and helps keep the soil moist. A diverse culture can act in a similar fashion, where the varied knowledge, skills, and experiences within a group can foster a more creative and productive environment. 

We at InfoQ seek to provide an environment rich with information, and welcome your feedback and suggestions. As we know that this topic can be unsettling and downright frustrating for many, we will do all that we can to be respectful in our writing, and we encourage our readers to use respect as well. 

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Community comments

Really? by Giorgio Galante

What value does InfoQ think it's going to add to the conversation? I don't come here for opinions on diversity, I come here for info on software development. You just lost a reader.

this is any joke? by josh jones

Are you talking serious??? InfoQ, the place where I come to check 'INFO'rmation, will change the name to DiversiQ by the way??? No man, time to move on and search another place to read software development stuff. Bye bye!

Canadian Opinion on This by Bryan Rayner

I work for a very diverse company. We are not just diverse in our skin colors and chromosome distributions, we are also diverse in our age. People in their 50s, 30s, and 20s, from Canada, Brazil, El Salvador, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Chinese, and the USA, all in one company. I would say we are about 40% women to 60% men. The marketing department actually has a minority of men, and always has.

I don't believe our founders ever really tried to set diversity as the goal. It just happened; That's how we roll in Canada. We hired whoever would take the jobs we were offering. It just so happened that we had a diverse set of applicants, and so, we have a diverse company.

If you took all of the software companies in the USA and moved them to Canada, I believe you would see the problem of "too white, too male" just disappear.

This is not a tech problem. This is a uniquely American problem. And I believe the solution will not come by saying "We need to be more diverse!". Focusing on what makes people different, focusing on the grievances one group has against another, doesn't solve anything. In Canada, we are not rallied around our ethnicities and our culture. We are all proud to be _Canadian_. _Being Canadian_ is what unites us. When we meet someone who is not like us, our reaction is "oh cool, what are you like?".

Proverbs 17:9 says
"Whoever overlooks a matter promotes love, but whoever repeats a matter separates close friends".

While diversity should be promoted, it's important to not allow any "minority" group to begin unfairly accusing members of the "majority". It's not only ineffective; It's downright rude. From what I can read / surmise, the "Google Memo" would have never been written, had there been more respect given by minorities within the company. True equality means truly equal consequences.

For the majorities, let's find ways to be more welcoming. Let's adjust our perspective.

Response from InfoQ by Susan McIntosh

Please note that adding news items about diversity will not in any way reduce the news and information about software and other technologies. We are responding to the growing data which shows that diversity in companies and teams provides greater creativity and improves the bottom line. In alignment with our mission to "help progressive software development teams adopt new technologies and practices," the goal of the new section is to share the practices that others have used to increase diversity and inclusion within their organizations, thereby allowing others to benefit from lessons learned.

While there are regions and company types where diversity and inclusion are more common, the lack of diversity in the IT industry in the US is certainly not unique. For example, according to a Harvard Law study many countries report that female representation on boards is far below equal, if they report at all. And the US and Canada both show in the range of 15-20% representation of women on corporate boards. Certainly, the percentage of women on executive boards is only one data point to measure diversity and inclusion. It’s a starting point.

Let's keep up the conversation!

Re: Really? by John M

They made their case in the article above. And I can see the value in how they presented it. I look forward to their articles

Re: this is any joke? by John M

Oh, I think you misread the article. They are not rebranding. If you thought that, I can see why you might think it's a joke. But this isn't April 1st.

Information comes in all shapes, sizes, and can impact many things including software development and the industry. They made their case in the article for why they are creating a new section and I see their point.

Re: Canadian Opinion on This by John M

So you are saying all Canadians accept others and have no bias? So the issue is, American companies should be run by Canadians?

If I wanted politics I would go to a different site by Ivan Lahav

This topic is becoming highly politicized and ideological, and as we've seen from the latest Google controversy the coverage being highly one-sided. There are many people with opinions that differ from the 'official' opinion (for example people opposing gender quotas or opposing diversity programs that treat people differently based on their gender), who are afraid to express it publicly, fearing reprisal. I was a regular reader of this site for years, but now unfortunately I will have to look elsewhere.

Re: If I wanted politics I would go to a different site by John M

So instead of reading and possibly contributing to a diverse dialogue, you'd rather stay in a box with your echo chamber.

Are you afraid of reprisal? If so, work to make diverse opinions accepted and push for different perspectives.

Re: If I wanted politics I would go to a different site by Peter Veentjer

A diverse dialog is easier said than done.

I have been checking various blogs, articles after the Google Memo and the amount of hatred, self righteousness and mob-like behavior is almost unbelievable.

It makes discussion based on real arguments very difficult; unlike regular InfoQ articles were people can give arguments in favor or against something e.g. Microservices.

Check for example a blogpost from Uncle Bob:

He wrote this based on the twitter comments he got from:

And by Diversity you mean? by Eric Zimmerman

I'm all in if by diversity you mean inclusion of people and ideas from all parts of our culture. This of course includes ideas and people like Mr. Damore, if not, well then your diversity is just another name for exclusion.

Interesting considering by Bam Ezu

There are only 7 women out of 81 people at infoQ.
And 0 Black.
If you actually care about diversity, apply it, and stop making virtue signalling.

Re: And by Diversity you mean? by Susan McIntosh

I'm open to inclusion and diversity of ideas from all parts of our culture, shared in a respectful manner. Like Uncle Bob’s blog posted above (thanks @Peter) I welcome rational disagreers. I've provided data that notes why diversity is useful to an organization. If someone would like to counter that with research that shows otherwise, I'm happy to engage in that conversation. That’s where good ideas become great ideas.

Scientific American published an article supporting the concept of great ideas being created within a diverse community in 2014 (and recently republished it)

Forbes writers often support and argue for diversity for a variety of reasons

We in IT know that there are often multiple ways to view a situation. Let's share those views - respectfully - and learn from each other.

Re: And by Diversity you mean? by Peter Veentjer

I checked the report:

And the conclusions are stated as fact, but I don't find the argumentation very solid. For example:

"Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians."

This is used to conclude that diverse companies are better.

As a performance engineer I know that statistics can easily be interpreted wrongly or be abused (lies, damn lies and statistics). So I'm going to play the Devil's advocate:

If there are 100 companies in the top quartile for gender diversity, and 15 of these companies financially perform better compared to less diverse companies, then 100-15=85 of these diverse companies do equal or worse compared to a less diverse company?

So is this report actually saying that from a financial point of view it is best to have a less diverse company?

This is one of my worries with the diversity discussion: there is a lack of self-criticism and rational thinking and it ends up in shaming/hating. All the stuff I don't expect to hear from a fellow developer.

PS: I work for a company where 50% of the developers are not Caucasian and 50% is not Christian/atheist. So I guess we are pretty diverse.

Re: Canadian Opinion on This by Bryan Rayner

What I have noticed since moving here, is that race is a "big deal". Back home, we just don't think about it that much.

Re: Interesting considering by Charles Humble

Hi Bam,

You make a fair challenge. It is the case that the InfoQ writing team is heavily male, and we haven't so far had much success trying to address this (although we are trying to address it) though in terms of geographic diversity we do quite well. Also worth saying that 4 out of the 6 people in my team are female, and 2 out of 5 of the executive team for C4Media are also female.

There's also a company photo on this page which may give you a slightly different perspective on things:

We're certainly not claiming to be perfect, and we, like the industry as a whole, have a long way to go, but this is something that we care about very deeply and are working to address at multiple levels in the company.

Charles Humble

Re: Interesting considering by Floyd Marinescu

60% of the full time staff at C4Media, which produces InfoQ, are female. What you are looking at is the list of community writers who work elsewhere but write part time for InfoQ. The lack of diversity there is precisely what we hope we can address!

Re: And by Diversity you mean? by Susan McIntosh

Thank you for diving into the statistics, and for challenging them. I plan on doing a deeper dive into the McKinsey report in a later news item. The summary web page (which you reference) has a link to the complete report which can be downloaded.

I hope that you will keep me honest in my evaluation of that report. To all readers, please feel free to comment with studies showing that diversity is detrimental to an organization, and I will include those in a discussion as well.

Diversity is good by Hitesh Bagchi

Diversity is good. In fact, the more the better. And this pretty much applies to everything in life. What surprised me is the strong opinions it evoked from the readers of a technical website. As along as diversity happens without comprising quality it is great indeed.
I come to InfoQ to learn from experts and that is what I will continue to do.

Diversity to replace the name of Culture & Methods by lo vuikeng

Google, Telsa, Facebook, Palantir, ..., the list keeps growing in the diversity issues having impacts on economic as well as social ground. InfoQ has been covering the issues more than a year under Culture & Methods. Honestly I'd rather see the section name, Culture & Methods, getting replaced by Diversity, as it suits better in the context

Re: Canadian Opinion on This by John M

Yeah, well. Race has huge historical relevance for our country. It was the core discussing over whether men should or should not be allowed to vote in 1870. It wasn't until 1920 that women (black and white) were allowed to vote.

And even when black men/women were allowed to vote it wasn't until 1964 with the Voting Rights Act that weaken the state's ability to undermine who could and couldn't vote. Because they used practices that disadvantaged black men and woman.

That was less than 100 years ago. And that stuff isn't easy to get over when you see it as a "lost". As well as other actions to address inequality.

We acknowledge that terrible actions and treatment against minorities have occurred through the majority of our country and mostly via the government because white people were in power. So race is a "big deal" as there are still people that don't like people that are "not of their own".

Re: Canadian Opinion on This by Bryan Rayner

As I said before, I think the way out of this is for the conversation to shift from what happened in the past, to treating people as equals. When we continue to say "this happened because they are black" (oftentimes a claim that is not agreed upon by both sides) we perpetuate the problem.

It was different when most white people hated blacks. But I would expect that _most_ white Americans, even in the south, do not hate black people or think of them as lesser human beings. If we keep accusing the majority of being racist, when they are no longer racist, that's the point where you're going to see huge divisions get deeper.

Now, if someone's a racist - call them out on it. But you no longer can make these broad, sweeping assumptions like you could 50 years ago.

When we bring in gender - I would point to Uncle Bob's comments on this topic. Most men in the tech industry just don't think about it that much. And that doesn't mean they're sexist! It just means they're focused on their craft, and are open to change.

List all the languages available in this world to promote diversity by Yang Wang

The list of languages under the InfoQ logo has En中文日本FrBr. This violates the diversity.

Please list all the languages there to prove your efforts for promoting diversity.

Re: Canadian Opinion on This by John M

You can't help it. Why do police jail more black people than white people. Because of social economic reasons, the communities with large percentage of black people have a larger portion that distrust the police because of the beatings and killings that took place in the past.

Fear of police is instilled in black America. Parents teach their kids how to dress and what to say to limit "mistakes" from police or anybody assuming a black person is a criminal.

The past tells us what the police are capable of if they are allowed to police themselves. The past tells us that police come with the need to feel in control of the situation even if disagreeing with someone leads them pointing their gun for the entire conversation in order to "feel safe". And they were the only ones with a weapon.

So some of those situations happened in the last year happened. decades and decades ago. The past is here even if it's not overt. The same mindsets persist. It's not about blame. It's about fear on both sides, power that one side is unwilling to give up or explain how/why it is used, and economic and legal decisions made decades ago still disadvantage one group over the other.

Within America, we have leaders that come and go. And unfortunately, no one person can make anyone treat everyone with respect. Cause in the real world, even giving respect can lead to getting shot if the person with the gun has the mindset/power/fear to do it.

Politics by Jimmy Keustermans

You just lost another reader. I came to InfoQ to read about technology. If I want to read some politically correct BS (read: 'biased research' from the Humanities department) I will read the newspaper or watch TV.

Re: Canadian Opinion on This by Bryan Rayner

I think that's where the distinction between groups / individuals becomes something that's lost. Perhaps that is the root of the problem; You can bring statistics in, but as soon as you do, the individuals who are not described by your statistic feel accused.

For example, what if I was a cop, who had never done any of the things you described? I would likely feel put on the defensive by what you're saying.

See, the good cops are out there. They would rather see their co-workers who act wrongly, get fired. But they also want support when they do the right thing. If you label all cops as "bad cops" just because they are cops, you're instantly _losing the support_ of the good cops.

If we change our language, we can solve these problems. If BLM for example were to say "Police officers agree with us - brutality by police is a problem that will not be tolerated. If you are brutal and you're a cop, don't expect your colleagues to have your back. Thank you to the cops who are on the side of truth." - Things would be different. But as it stands, "all cops are bad" is the loudest message. There's no middle ground.

We should be labeled by what is inside of us, by what we do, not by the affinity we hold to a particular group. That's really what I'm saying - let's use language that is more likely to cause the outcome we desire.

Re: Canadian Opinion on This by Clint Farleigh

I grew up in Canada, went to university in Vancouver and worked there for a couple years. I also work for a company that is quite diverse and I think this diversity has helped to create a great work environment and culture. The difference though is that the company is a fairly large Bay area company. One thing I've noticed in my time in both countries is that Canadians have a habit of sometimes thinking themselves as morally and otherwise superior to Americans. I think the truth is far more complex. I saw racial bias in Canada, just like I've seen it in the United States. Be careful in what generalizations you make based on anecdotal experiences.

Re: And by Diversity you mean? by Vitaliy Fedoriv

It just professors games with numbers. And can prove anything.
You can found Williams & O'Reilly (1998) research about racial diversity, "found it to have a negative impact within the firm".
And if you read all "study conducted in 2003, Orlando Richard", you can found... surprise: "a racial diversity main effect on organizational performance was not observed". They cut one phrase from full research and cited it as prove "diversity theory".

We are programmers, not politics - we like logic, not political bullshit.

Re: And by Diversity you mean? by Vitaliy Fedoriv

It just survivorship bias "research".
Fooled by randomness (c) Nassim Taleb

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